Vegetable Verselets


Vegetable Verselets


a vegetarian song cycle for voice & piano on words of Margaret G. Hayes (2011)

  • Premiere: 27 April 2011  / Virginia Tech Auditorium  / Caroline Worra, soprano / Tracy Cowden, piano
  • Instrumentation:
  • Duration: 15'
  • Text: Margaret G. Hayes (E)
  1. Narcissus Cucumber
  2. The Regiment
  3. Well!
  4. The Elopement
  5. Boston Bean
  6. The Opera
  7. Practical Peg
  8. Nautical Language

Program note

The opposite of dehumanization is anthropomorphism -- the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object. In her slender volume of verse, Margaret G. Hayes elected to anthropomorphize an entire gardenful of vegetables. From her charming literary cornucopia I harvested, at Tracy Cowden's urging, just nine--(in order of appearance): cucumbers, corn, oyster plants, parsely, celery, beans, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, turnips, eggplants, and Marrowfat peas.

I admire the subversiveness of Hayes' bagatelles. On the surface, her poems are arch, and a little silly, the poetry verging on doggerel. However, Hayes' often tart observations about her fellow humans and their foibles ring with a beguilingly prim, fierce dignity that pre-date Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle. There was room, I felt, for the addition of music, which heightens characterization, and creates a context in which the listener is encouraged (or not) to empathize with the warm humanity underlying Hayes' observations.

Commissioned by Tracy Cowden with support from the Niles Faculty Research Award through the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, the complete cycle lasts fifteen minutes. It was premiered by Tracy Cowden and Caroline Worra on 27 April 2011, in the Virginia Tech Auditorium.

-- Daron Hagen, 2014

After discovering a 1911 copy of "Vegetable Verselets" in Special Collections at Virginia Tech's Newman Library, Tracy Cowden, an associate professor in the Department of Music, commissioned Daron Hagen to write music for the poems.

"Heart-Beets," from the first edition.

Tracy Cowden and Caroline Worra, premiering Vegetable Verselets, in 2011.

Tracy Cowden and Caroline Worra, premiering Vegetable Verselets, in 2011.

Open the lyrics in a new window by clicking here.

(Banner photo: Caroline Worra)